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We could use your help. If you are interested in making a corporate donation for 2008, please e-mail Michael Robinson. As always, thank you for your generous support!

In the News

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Update: SB 285 Wright Veterans Disability benefits: attachment. Plus a new Published Appeals Court Decision on SSI/SSDI Child Support Cases.

SB 285 passed out of the Senate Judiciary committee and was place on the Senate consent calendar where it quickly passed out of the Senate. The bill has now moved to the Assembly where its first scheduled committee hearing will be in the Assembly Judiciary. Read: CAFC Helps Disabled Veterans with Family Law Reform for more details about the bill.

There is only one family law code 4504 that even mentions disabled veterans benefits regarding their application in support cases. This same code also applies to SSI/SSDI cases yet other code sections that cover SSI/SSDI fail to cover disabled veterans benefits. The other family law codes are: FC 5246, FC 17400.5 and FC 17450. Read the codes here. The problem is the courts have routinely treated Veterans Disability Benefits differently than a disabled person on SSI/SSDI causing disabled veterans serious hardships.

We have to ask ourselves what is the difference between a civilian who has been disabled from a car accident, or a fall off a ladder, and permanently disabled compared to a military service person that is blown up by an IED, or was exposed to Agent Orange, or suffers from severe PTSD from combat related experiences? There is no difference except one federal program, the Social Security Administration (SSA), which covers the civilian, and another federal program, the Veterans Administration (VA), which covers the disabled veteran. In some cases a veteran may be entitled to both.

Bottom line is both are disabled as a result of a permanent injury or injuries, and have a partial or 100 percent disability that caused the disabled person the loss of future earnings. And in many cases are totally disabled and can’t even work a part time job at all.

Both federal programs have provisions for separate allotments or apportionments for dependent children. This means either the SSA or the VA send one check to the disabled person or veteran and another for the dependent children.

Here also disabled veterans and their dependents are treated differently. SSA pays substantially more for dependent children. Example; if the disabled person, based on their percentage of disability is receiving $800.00 a month, then a child dependent would receive half that amount and the SSA would then send an additional check for the dependent child to the custodial parent for $400.00. This does not include medical benefits children may also be entitled to as an additional benefit.

Here is an excellent paper on SSI for family law attorneys.

Unfortunately the VA only pays $71.00 max per child. Our question is why do we continue to penalize a disabled veteran due to discrimination between two federal programs? The children of disabled veterans should be entitled to the same amount that a child of a disabled person on SSI/SSDI would receive. Children of disabled vets do have VA medical benefits available to them also.

CAFC intends to push this at the federal level and get this discrimination stopped so that children of disabled vets are taken care of and treated the same as children receiving SSI/SSDI benefits.

Still, even thought California laws are clear on SSI/SSDI child support cases, courts have routinely allowed the Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) to double dip by not applying the amount of SSI/SSDI that is paid directly to the custodial parent for a child towards the court ordered amount -- let alone applying any over payments towards any arrears if there are any. In many if not most cases the amount the SSA pays for the children is higher than the child support order.

CAFC has received many calls from disabled persons on SSI/SSDI that have encountered these problems. One of the most glaring injustices on this problem is that of the Ray Askins. His case was being handled by the San Bernardino County DCSS office.

Ray is 100 percent disabled with severe diabetes and other serious heath problems. As with most disabled people, including disabled veterans, they cannot afford the costs of an attorney let alone the cost of an appeal. Ray did as good of a job as any family law specialist could have done but the Department and the court denied him justice. He has not been able to afford even minimal cost for an appeal.

CAFC is pleased to announce that finally a trial court in Kern County finally followed the law and held the Department accountable for their injustice against a disabled person in the case of: In re the Marriage of DANNY C. and SHANNON HOPKINS, 5th DCA F055130. This case was just published on April 24, 2009.

This case brings great hope for anyone who is disabled with a child support order, including Ray Askins. When we emailed the case to him he said it brought tears to his eyes.

We have most of Ray’s case documents which we assisted him with in part. Here is just one document that shows his case is almost identical to the Hopkins case. Ray’s Bank account was also levied as was Daniel Hopkins and as result Ray was not able to get the medical attention he needed weekly because he could not afford the travel cost. It almost cost Ray his life.

Because this is a published opinion and new case law, many will have the right to have their cases readdressed. If you are a disabled person or you know of a disable person who has been wronged by this injustice in California then please let them know about this case. Some cases may even be entitled to a refund for over payment.

As blistering as the appeals court opinion is we would be extremely surprised if a Petition for Review is granted. The case can be tracked here.

In closing we want to thank those of you who have donated to CAFC and those who make ongoing donations. Without your help we could not continue to be as effective as we are. Please spread the word about our work to others and encourage them to making a donation.

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Monday, April 6, 2009

CAFC Helps Disabled Veterans with Family Law Reform:

The California Alliance for Families and Children is thrilled that nearly 10 months of work have resulted in getting a bill introduced in the California Legislature that will uphold existing federal law -- USC, Title 38, Section 5301, governing third party disbursement of disabled veterans' benefits compensation.

The bill, SB 285, is being carried by California Senator Rod Wright, and even though CAFC spearheaded the issue here in California, we have asked one of the veterans groups that we have had a long association with, the American Retirees Association (ARA), to make a formal request to Senator Wright’s office to be the bill's official sponsor.

Although United States Code, Title 38, Section 5301 is very clear in its wording and intent, civil court judges nationwide have routinely ignored the U.S. Code and calculated veterans’ disability compensation into divorce settlements as a divisible asset or income.

And it's just not men; it's also disabled female veterans experiencing these problems when they get divorced or declare bankruptcy.

CAFC’s Executive Director, Michael Robinson, first became aware of the problem mid-year in 2008, after hearing from other vet groups about the problem. See CAFC Fact Sheet Here or SB 285 author Rod Wright's Fact Sheet Here.

SB 285 was originally for another family law code, but the author, Senator Wright, amended the bill to correct this problem on April 2, 2009.

The same day, CAFC’s Michael Robinson was already scheduled to attend the California State Commanders Veterans Council (CSCVC) meeting. His attendance was requested by Dennis Egge, President of the ARA. The CSCVC is made up of representatives from 19 vet groups and meets every 6 months. The purpose of the April 2, 2009 meeting was for going over general business and reviewing current California legislation affecting veterans. Robinson left the meeting with unanimous support from all 19 veterans groups, and is organizing support letters and witnesses to testify for the committee hearings.

Additionally a news story on the issue broke on the same day out of Iowa on KWQC-TV6. Read the news story or watch the video from KWQC-TV6.